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How Four Seasons Became One of the World’s Most Loved Brands by Doing Good

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As one of the world’s top hospitality brands, Four Seasons is weathering the worst year in travel and tourism on a global scale – ever.  It’s doing that by being one of those brands that is good for real, building enough brand loyalty to survive even an unprecedented crisis that no one could have ever predicted.  International social media analytics firm Talkwalker recently published its  Brand Love Story 2020, which names Four Seasons among the most loved brands.

According to Talkwalker, Four Seasons drives passion and brand loyalty through an authentic and active sense of community responsibility and sharing initiatives on social and traditional media. Four Seasons’ online sentiment is overwhelmingly positive, with only three percent of mentions around the brand registering as negative within the last year.  The brand created new initiatives that continued to earn good mentions during the pandemic and beyond, such as: 

These moves have earned lots of plaudits from the industry, and the crucial affection of consumers as well:

The key themes driving sentiment for the brand last year - all very green and very positive - are illustrated in the attached infographics.

Even when you look at the left side of the above image and choose a negative word like "low" you can see the stories relate to a revitalizing of a given area, often if a Four Seasons opens (examples).

And one of the primary reasons that Four Seasons has continued its positive sentiment, even during the pandemic, isn’t just about what the brand is doing DURING the pandemic, but what it did before crisis hit.  Four Seasons ranks high in brand love largely because of its programs in community service, corporate social responsibility and employee advocacy, such as this effort to support cage-free egg sourcing or this international effort to support Hurricane Dorian Relief with its Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort in the Bahamas with this fundraiser at the Four Seasons Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  

Proof of the love that Four Seasons accumulated is shown here in the emotions over time from July-December 2019, while this second chart maps emotions in 2020. 

“Unfortunately brand love is not something you can win once and rest on your laurels,” says Todd Grossman, CEO Americas Talkwalker. “Brands must continually strive for improvement, and to prove that their customers made the right choice.”

The Johns Hopkins partnership is a good example - some other hospitality brands have partnered with cleaning products, and others with insurance companies, all to help pandemic-wary travelers come back through the lobby doors. While that is positive for sure, the Four Seasons partnered with scientists.

“As the research team advances its knowledge around COVID-19 weekly, the Four Seasons brand is one of the first to digest and communicate that knowledge to staff members,” says Grossman. “In a global pandemic, science communicators and the widespread understanding of prevention methods is as important as research into the virus itself. By continually proving to customers that the brand, and all of its employees understand this is a virus that does not discriminate, that they are learning the science, they keep customers feeling safe.” 

Showing that the brand is willing to step up to help the cities where it operates has been the crucial antidote to the slow business all hotels are experiencing. The previous six months the brand has 7.5K mentions, approximately 1K fewer than H2-19.  

Of those mentions, 3.1K come from the March 23 announcement of free rooms for workers in NYC. Without that civic minded action, the brand would be seeing social mentions, engagement and sentiment 50 percent lower (or more) than where it is now.

Walmart is another great example of a brand that is putting its communities first in the pandemic, and worrying about the bottom line later.

“Both Walmart and the Four Seasons have built their success on whom we as a society have come to recognize as essential workers - acknowledging that -  through actions – is a surefire way to build passionate fans that trust your brand and are eager to see it succeed,” Grossman adds.

Unprecedented times means brands need to do three things to make it through this era: 

First, cleanliness peace of mind - from science, from disinfectants, from $$$, however you solve this problem you have to make sure it appears clean and customers can see and learn more about the actions you are taking.

Second, keep the audiences engaged - keep the brand front of mind by creating news or social content that communicates solidarity...and your efforts to help! Hilton DoubleTree releasing their cookie recipe for at-home audiences is a fun example of how to do this. 

And finally, "Be bold, be audacious, be first,” says Grossman.  “No matter the situation, brands that move first win the largest share of voice.” 

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